Inside the world of romance scams, former scammer shares his story | #DatingScams | #LoveScams | #RomanceScans

BALTIMORE — WJZ continues to delve into romance scams, a coldhearted federal crime where scammers rob their victims of large sums of money.

Our Jessica Albert spoke with a romance scammer and federal prosecutors.

Revealing his dark past.

“I scammed people,” reformed romance scammer Christopher said.

Former romance scammer, Christopher, spoke with WJZ from his home in Nigeria.

“I created fake profiles on dating sites,” Christopher said. “I created fake profiles on social media to attract women.”

Christopher says he began scamming in 2016 when he was a broke college student.

“Scamming is common in Nigeria, so many people of my age were making more money than I do,” Christopher said. “It pushed me to start scamming because I wanted to make more money.”

Romance scams target tens of thousands of Americans each year.

The scammers typically meet their victims online, develop a romantic relationship with them and eventually bilk them of huge sums of cash, sometimes draining their entire life savings.

Jessica asked Christopher if he ever faced any criminal charges while he was scamming

“I was arrested,” Christopher said. “I didn’t go to court, but I was locked up for some days.”

In Maryland, romance scams are prosecuted by U.S. Attorney Erek Barron.

His office is currently working on a pending case involving a man from the Baltimore area accused of scamming several victims out of thousands of dollars over the course of three years.

“We are doing everything we can to get people to report it when it happens,” Barron said. “Then we are putting in the resources to investigate and prosecute. The penalties are very, very significant and we will be very aggressive in getting justice to victims.”

The cases can be difficult to prosecute because there are often many victims and the scammers tend to weave a complex web to conceal what they’re doing.

But, Barron says scam and fraud cases are a top priority, so much so that in 2022 his office joined the Justice Department’s “Elder Justice Strike Force” in 2022.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Evelyn Cusson serves as the Elder Justice Coordinator

“The main focus is to bring together different law enforcement partners to prosecute elder fraud schemes, typically, where there are targets, both here in the United States and overseas,” Cusson said.

“With the help of a coordinator and a strike force, we can find that not just one victim was a victim of the romance scheme, but this was a wide-ranging, complex scheme which allows us the resources of the federal government,” Barron said.

Barron and Cusson also believe preventing scams from happening is just as important as bringing the scammers to justice.

They partner with AARP for PROTECT Week and World Elder Abuse Day in June, which focuses on educating potential victims.

Christopher is also focused on prevention.

He says he stopped scamming and, in 2022, began working for Social Catfish, a company that uses reverse search technology to prevent scams.  

He shares his story regularly to generate awareness.

“I’m working on making everything right,” Christopher said. “I just want to make everything right.”

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